Thursday, June 13, 2024

In the Cards: Rookie forward comes up big for Cards: Pazmandi skates across three countries to Plattsburgh’s second line

Zsofia Pazmandi currently leads the Cardinals in goals with six, racking up seven total points. She’s greatly benefitted Plattsburgh when she’s on the ice, with a +6 plus-minus..

 

By Michael Purtell

Zsofia “Paz” Pazmandi has made it known since she was a little girl that she never needed to be typical to succeed. As an international student-athlete and a 20-year-old freshman, Paz is ready to let Plattsburgh know who she is.

Paz has been a key contributor for the Cardinals this year. She took three consecutive SUNYAC Rookie of the Week honors in weeks three, four and five of the season. All three awards followed two goal performances from Paz. The first came in a win over Buffalo State Nov. 10, in which she also scored an assist. The second came against SUNY Potsdam on Nov. 17. The third came in the Cardinal/Panther classic opening match against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where Paz scored both her goals in the first 2 minutes of play.

Paz was born in Kaposvar, Hungary, a “little city” where “ice hockey is not really a big thing,” but little Paz had energy. She knew that energy needed to be channeled into something, so she began trying any sport she could. Looking at what was around her, she tried synchronized swimming, running track, gymnastics and even horse riding alongside her sister. None of it clicked, until a family friend invited her to learn to skate ice hockey when she was 11.

Paz learned to ice skate and fell in love. Three years later, she was invited to her first of many Hungarian national teams.

This success was the result of her passion for the sport, but it wasn’t exactly a “normal” hobby for a 14-year-old, as her parents told her.

“My parents really wanted me to do a ‘girly’ sport. And my mom, when I started playing ice hockey, was not the happiest person on earth, but they got used to it and now they love it,” Paz said.

 

Paz spent her youth playing for Hungarian national teams. She has since traded Hungary’s red for Cardinal red

 

Paz’s parents are now her biggest fans. Her mother, Bianka, works in Hungary as a kindergarten teacher and her father, Tamas, works internationally. They don’t let time differences stop them from supporting their daughter’s dreams. 

“They’re watching all of my games. It doesn’t matter what time it is. It’s 2 a.m. for them. Then it’s 2 a.m. and they’re watching it anyways,” Paz said.

Her mom is sensitive to emotion and eager to remind her of how much she misses her while she travels. Her father lets her know he watched every game by making sure to note the little things in her playstyle. If she makes a small mistake, or beats an opponent with an adjustment too subtle for the casual fan to notice, he’s going to let her know he saw it. His advice pushes her to improve on the ice.

Paz is most grateful for her parents supporting her decision to travel to North America. Last year, Paz took the jump from European hockey to American hockey and competed at the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall, Ontario. She attributes much of her growth to her year there.

“The thing that helped me the most was the on-ice practicing. It was really hard. We worked out until we couldn’t breathe and we had at least 60 games in a season, which is insane. We had times where we had four games a week. It just gave me a conditioning and a strength to not give up,” Paz said.

In her season at OHA, Paz played 51 games and had the second most points and assists on the team in that span. One of those games was in St. Lawrence, New York against Northwood Academy, where Plattsburgh Head Coach Kevin Houle met with her to invite her to the Cardinals.

“We noticed her fairly quickly and she was a pretty good player. I had the opportunity to speak with her after the game and talk to her about coming down for a visit,” Houle said. “We’re fortunate to have her here.”

Paz was impressed by the Cardinals’ skill on her visit and committed after that.

The feeling was mutual. Paz’s experience in Europe developed her play to be highly skilled.

“She’s a very skilled player, which is sort of the European way of hockey,” Assistant Coach Julia Duquette said. “She brings a lot of skill to the team and to her line as well.”

 

Paz celebrates her third goal of the Panther/Cardinal Classic over rival Middlebury. She earned an All-Tournament selection.

 

Paz prefers the North American style, and it was a big driver in her decision to come to Plattsburgh, but that doesn’t make it a seamless transition. She still often looks for extra passes or dribbling opportunities when the team’s style would prefer her to take any shot she can get. Houle has noticed as well.

“Sometimes she holds on to it a little too long trying to make the perfect play when we’d rather see her shoot the puck,” Houle said. “You have to trust her instincts as a hockey player and just curtail things a little bit to get her to shoot a little more, but she has great vision and you don’t want to take that piece away from her game.”

Paz wants to set a good example for maturity and sportsmanship on the ice, especially due to her experience and age compared to other first years.

“I was playing on a senior team in Hungary, so I was skating with older players around me. When I went to Ontario Hockey, it was weird at first because I was one of the oldest on the team. So I kind of have to be like a role model, like a leader. Even though I was not the captain or anything, it just made me feel like I have to prove something,” Paz said. “And here, it’s kind of mixed because I have younger and older players around me.”

Teammate, roommate and friend Su-An Cho said Paz’s maturity is obvious to everyone on the team, and that makes her not only a great locker room presence, but easy to play with on the ice as well.

“I think she’s one of the few people that really observes and notices the little things. She’s always asking about the stuff that I don’t really think most people have noticed or bother to ask and I see that as a big strength of hers,” Cho said.

Paz was excited to score her first collegiate goal and earn her first awards as a Card, but  her focus remains on bigger fish.

Paz and the Cardinals have enjoyed an undefeated start to the season including big wins against ranked teams. It took home a 6-1 win against No. 9 ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire Nov. 25. It took down No. 5 ranked Middlebury 3-1 the next day, where Paz scored at the buzzer.

“We have to be humble,” Paz said, “If we stay as humble as we are right now and work as a team, we are going to have really really good games against the strongest teams.”

 

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